Becoming the Apostle Paul (5)
Thoughts on Saul’s Conversion
In the span of three days a man of implacable will on a mission of destruction has been utterly transformed. How can the magnitude and scope of this transformation possibly be captured in mere words? To try is to be defeated, but still the attempt must be made.
Three days prior Saul had been a proud Pharisee, one of the most complete and zealous of practicing members of the Jewish faith. His claim to position in that faith rested on performance with regard to living up to the Laws of Moses and the Prophets. He was a fierce monotheist. He had the comfort of belonging to a faith that was already two thousand years old. He viewed gentiles as unclean beings with whom he should have as little to do as possible. He likely viewed the Roman Empire as an evil that was oppressing his people. He hated Jesus Christ and His followers with a passion that was unquenched by the blood of a brutal stoning. Only the complete annihilation of this cult could bring him peace of mind.
At this point in the story Saul may not have completely realized it, but all of the above had been swept away. Much later he would say:
If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:4b-11)
This is the transformation that can only be accomplished by our Great God. Saul will be followed by countless lives equally changed beyond human understanding by the touch of our Sovereign Lord’s intervention.
Those who hate Christianity enthusiastically tar it for the sins of they who have most abused its truth. Kings and popes, ministers and elders who have used it to serve their own selfish ends, to power and plunder, conquest and seduction, are held up as Christianity’s representatives in the court of history’s judgment. As with all earthly sources of power, the church has drawn those seeking only that unto them.
But when Christ looks at His Church He sees the woman at the well, the tax collector, the adulteress, the denier, the murderer – all those saints famous and anonymous – who have been redeemed and reborn by His sovereign love.
The haters pay no heed to these simple saved. For they seek not power or place for themselves. No, these true saints recede into the background, for:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
And so Christ’s true Church continues on, unnoticed and unrewarded by this passing world, preaching the Gospel, practicing the Sacraments, redeeming lives, bringing light into this dark world one burning soul at a time. What care we? For great is our reward in heaven!